Dale Kaemingk (left) and Hisham Othman.

Dale Kaemingk (left) and Hisham Othman.

Small-town policing takes center stage in Brier mayoral race

BRIER — This quiet south Snohomish County city of about 6,500 residents is down to two police officers.

For the two candidates running for mayor, revitalizing that police department is the top issue.

Mayor Dale Kaemingk was appointed in July 2020 after the resignation of longtime mayor Bob Colinas. Before that, the retired engineer served on the City Council since the early 2000s.

His opponent, Hisham Othman, is making his first run for office. Othman moved to Brier, where he lives with his wife and kids, 11½ years ago.

It’s a classic tug-of-war between experience and new perspectives. Kaemingk said the mayoral post has a steep learning curve that he’s surpassed. And he noted he’s built relationships with regional officials that his opponent hasn’t. Othman, on the other hand, argued his opponent’s leadership would be more of the same that left the small-town police force depleted.

In July, the council approved an agreement with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office for the next six months to assist the two Brier officers. Brier police chief Mike Catlett caught city officials off guard when he announced his retirement in June. And the department hasn’t had its usual six-officer force since last fall, Kaemingk told The Daily Herald in July.

The city is working with an employment firm to search for a new police chief. Kaemingk said this week the city is looking at five applicants for officers and five applicants for the chief position. Some of those applicants are local; others are from elsewhere.

“We want our Brier officers driving our Brier cars,” is what Kaemingk has heard from residents while campaigning.

It might seem odd that the handling of crime would be the top issue in quaint Brier.

In 2020, there were two aggravated assault reports and 15 simple assaults, according to a Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs report.

The crime rate in the south Snohomish County city was 33.1 per 1,000 residents in 2020. By comparison, Everett’s was 85.6 per 1,000 residents, according to the WASPC report. On average, the city gets about 1.5 911 calls between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. each night.

Othman, director of international fiscal services at Seattle Colleges, argues the city needs its own robust police force for proactive traffic enforcement.

“Brier really enforced the traffic laws and it made the residents feel safe. Now we don’t have that,” he said. “We just kind of want to have that quaint, small town feel.”

All of the City Council members endorsed Kaemingk, writing in an August letter, “Experience should not be underestimated, and Dale has the experience.” Othman argued in a response letter that “bringing in a person from the outside, such as myself, will allow me to leverage my past work experience and exposure to various programs and technologies, then directly apply them to helping the City of Brier operate more efficiently.”

Kaemingk is also backed by the mayors of Lynnwood, Mukilteo and Mountlake Terrace, as well as U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett.

The winner will be elected to a four-year term and make $1,000 per month. Othman, 37, said he would continue in his current job and work extra hours to be mayor.

Ballots were mailed to voters earlier this month. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday. Drop boxes are available until 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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